Saturday, April 18, 2015

Fes Festival of Sufi Culture ~ Day One

The Fes Festival of Sufi Culture opened on a beautiful afternoon at the Batha Museum. With minimal fuss or security, things went like clockwork.  
The Batha Museum venue - Photo Priam Thomas

Festival Director Faouzi Skali was in a surprisingly relaxed mood for the first day of the event and greeted guests and dignitaries with a warm smile. After setting the scene, he introduced four musicians who gave a beautiful reading of Rumi - a hymn to love in every sense.

The relaxed Faouzi Skali arrives at the venue

Faouzi was followed by Bariza Khiari, a French politician, Socialist senator and previously Vice President of the Senate. She has published insightful papers on Sufism and Islam that aim to encourage policy-makers and observers of social and political life to broaden their vision and sharpen their thinking.

Bariza Khiari - Photo Priam Thomas

Bariza Khiari pointed out that Islam has become a highly politicised in recent years and its religious and spiritual dimension has been reduced to almost nothing, in favour of controversy. In what she describes as a "cacophony", we find the "media obscurantists" one side and Islamophobia, on the other - their language designed to politicise their arguments.

Roderick Grierson is a world expert on the Mevlevi liturgy known as sema. and about its role in preserving the mystical teachings of Jalal al-Din Rumi. He talked about the fascination and admiration with which travellers from the West have regarded the music and dance of the ‘Whirling Dervishes’ since the early eighteenth century. He pointed out that there are many "versions" of Rumi and that the Festival would give everyone who attended a chance to explore the Turkish Mevlevi traditions in music, literature and poetry.

Roderick Grierson praised the Festival programme

Roderick is the director of the Rumi Institute at the Near East University in Cyprus. He serves on the editorial committee of the Mawlana Rumi Review and is preparing an exhibition of engravings and lithographs of Mevlevi dervishes that will travel to the United Kingdom and United States in 2015. His translation of the Book of Counsels by the Turkish sufi poet Yunus Emre was published in 2013.

All the speakers  praised the tireless work of Faouzi Skali and congratulated him on focusing on love. As Grierson said, in an echo of John Lennon, "We need more love in today's world".

Fatima Azzahra Kortobi

The surprise of the afternoon was a wonderful musical interlude from Fatima Azzahra Kortobi and Salah Eddin Mohassine - a taste of what we could expect in the evening.

Note should be made of the work behind the scenes done by Thibaut Chandelier who facilitated the smooth distribution of information and passes to the international press contingent.

Thibaut Chandelier - ensuring smooth running
Renowned Australian poet, Catherine Wright was in the audience
Priam Thomas 

A new face at the Batha Museum was that of writer and photographer Priam Thomas who has joined The View from Fez team for the duration of the festival. You will find more of his work here.

Evening Concert

Photo: Priam Thomas

The first full concert of the Sufi Festival was a creative work that brought together some very talented musicians to pay homage to Rabia Adawiyya. Rābiʻa al-ʻAdawiyya al-Qaysiyya (Arabic: رابعة العدوية القيسية‎) or simply Rābiʿah al-Baṣrī (Arabic: رابعة البصري‎) was a female Muslim saint and Sufi mystic.

She was born between 713 and 717 CE (100 and 108 Hijri) in Basra, Iraq. Much of her early life is narrated by Farid ud-Din Attar, a later Sufi Saint and poet, who used earlier sources. Rabia herself did not leave any written works about her life. She died in around 801 CE.

The orchestra leader providing some lyrical beauty - Photo: Priam Thomas

Backed by an Andalusian style orchestra of some twenty talented musicians, were Samira Kadiri, Fatima Azzahra Kortobi, Salah Eddine Mohssine and Marouane Hajji. It was an interesting mix - the voices varied, ranging from the dynamic Marouane Hajji, with a boyish smile and playfulness that had the capacity crowd loving every nuance, to Sallah Eddine Mohssine, who was more workmanlike in comparison with Hajji, but he performed with the grace and ease of a master musician..

Fatima Azzahra Kortobi
Marouane Hajji
Salah Eddine Mohssine
Samira Kadiri

Fatima Azzahra Kortobi displayed a wide vocal range from crystal clear soprano down to a depth and earthiness that was reminiscent of some of the great Fado singers. Samira Kadiri's soprano voice is one of classical purity that could stand well alongside  most Western sopranos.

The music was broken up with narration that was, if anything, a bit too pretty. The words are beautiful in themselves and didn't need a dusting of sugar. That aside it was a splendid creation and a suitable opening night.

Coming up tomorrow: Sunday, April 19

10am Round table and poetry readings."Tribute to Abdelwahhab Meddeb"

4pm Round Table: "Will there be a revival of Sufism in the Muslim World?"

8:30 p.m. Samaa of the Tariqa Qadiriyya Boutchichiyya
Samaa of Tariqa-s Siqilliyya / Wazzaniyya

See other Festival reports

Sufi Festival  ~ Day One
Sufi Festival - Day Two
Sufi Festival ~ Day Three
Sufi Festival ~ Day Four
Sufi Festival ~ Day Five
Sufi Festival ~ Day Six
Sufi Festival ~ Day Seven
Sufi Festival ~ Day Eight

The weather should be sunny with a top of 24 degrees Celsius and an overnight low of 11 degrees.

Photos: Priam Thomas & Sandy McCutcheon

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